Newspapers are facing tough times. Advertising revenue is shrinking, and readers are gravitating toward online news services, blogs, social media and other sites that deliver fast information with round-the-clock updates. Newspapers that once had a virtual lock on the market are now competing for the news audience with a variety of new and traditional marketing strategies.

Newspaper Chic

Rather than reinventing the marketing wheel, the Newspaper Association of America used a tried-and-true promotional tool: sex appeal. An NAA ad campaign, launched in 2011, uses a series of drawings of a young woman, seated at a café table, engrossed in a broadsheet. With a “Smart is the New Sexy” slogan, the ads equate being informed with being captivating. No need to spend hours in the gym or a fortune on the latest fashions, the key to attracting the opposite sex is correctly quoting the mayor’s address to the city council. Newspapers have always promised to make us wiser voters, more engaged citizens and sharper shoppers, but they don’t mention that keeping up with the news can make our jokes funnier, our stories richer and our overall presence more appealing.

Cause Marketing

GateHouse New England, a media company with six dailies and more than 100 community weeklies, published an edition of each paper on pink newsprint. Reporters covered stories on breast cancer survivors, treatment options and local support groups, and businesses ran ads with pink ribbons and messages of hope for a cure. A portion of the sales revenue of the pink editions was donated to breast cancer research. Cause marketing, a strategy that involves newspapers teaming up with a charity or non-profit organization, encourages sales, pleases regular readers and builds goodwill. Newspapers can build interest and generate sales by partnering with almost any cause such as a local theater group, a food pantry or a senior center.

Free News

Many businesses use free samples as a way to market products. Most people enjoy free things, and not having to pay creates a favorable impression of the product even before it's sampled. A free edition or series of editions of a newspaper can work especially well since advertising reps can approach businesses with the enticement that these particular editions will be stuffed into every mailbox in the community, or handed to every shopper at a local mall. Newspapers can also follow up on the maximum exposure by offering a discount on subscriptions.

Newspapers may have initially cursed the Internet for killing their classified ad revenue and eating away at their circulation, but most news organizations have embraced digital publishing. Newspapers can use print editions to market their websites and vice versa. Print stories can point readers to websites that offer video and blogging, surveys and other interactive media. Print editions can also advise readers to check the newspaper's websites for updates on breaking stories. Websites can also play up refrigerator copy, items such as birth and wedding announcements, photos of student theater performances, school bus routes and other community-related items that families often clip and display on the fridge.